The main camp being set up to accommodate the 3,000 people who will work on the Eastmain-1 hydroelectric development project (EM1) is well under construction. Among the services that will be available on site will be a sporting complex and gymnasium with all the bells and whistles, sure to be a welcome distraction and place of leisure.

Attached to the sporting complex will be an inflatable arena. After a hard 10-hour day, employees will be able to use the bowling lanes with its Pentium 4 computer to keep score, play badminton, volleyball, basketball, racket ball, ping-pong, do some weightlifting, bust a move on a portable dance floor, play some pool and snooker, work on their golf swing in a golf simulator room with another Pentium 4 computer to aid them, before relaxing in the saunas and whirlpool baths. A stone’s throw from this will be a bar/salon, a dépanneur and a mini-mall that will offer a restaurant, a barber, banking services and as yet undetermined other services.

Instead of building a sweat lodge, there will be a cultural centre for the Crees located within the sporting complex. It will house expositions and an information centre for non-natives to learn about the Cree Culture. Johnny Saganash, the on-site Cree Counselor, is hoping to open it to all the Cree communities to do with it as they wish. Every month, a different community will be encouraged to share their culture as they see fit.

“We want to have expositions, drawings, sell things, even a little museum, to inform the non-natives of the Cree culture with special presentations. We want to get a lot of Cree involved. We want to have the Cree values and culture in the system. Everything related to the Cree culture is what we’re trying to get at. Every month we want to have each village come and do their thing. We want to tell each community for their month, “Hey, it’s your house, do what you want with it, show us what you can.”

Saganash has been at the closed site since the first contract began. Usually the camp is built the year before the construction starts on the hydro project but this camp was being built at the same time. All the lodgings are there, along with one of the two cafeterias. The bar/salon opened October 11. The dépanneur will soon follow, boasting reasonable prices set by SEBJ. The arena foundation is complete and is awaiting the arrival of the inflatable cover. It will be ready for skating the first week of December. The sporting complex is 50 per cent complete.

“I’ve gotten used to the way things are. The other people will have the gymnasium and the other things, so that is good for them,” said Saganash. Currently there are 1,100 workers in the camp, with over 2,000 projected to be there by January 2004 and peaking at 3,000. “It’s just like a town.”

The camp will be used for the duration of the construction period, through to the year 2007.